Summary: The Sun of Righteousness Will Rise 1) To burn the arrogant; 2) To warm the reverent
The 17th Century czar of Russia, Peter the Great, lived in a palace filled with exquisite artwork. Yet whenever he saw a sunrise he wondered why many did not awaken early enough to view one of the most glorious sights in the universe. “They delight,” he said, “in gazing on a picture, the trifling work of a mortal, and at the same time neglect the one painted by the hand of the Deity Himself” (Joel Pankow). There can be no denying that the dynamic colors and grandeur of a sunrise is more stunning than anything man can put on canvass.
Have you noticed, however, that in the last twenty years the sun has become an object of fear more than wonder? That neighborhood star of ours which puts on a show every sunrise and sunset, that gives us light and heat, and which can make all the difference between a blah day or a cheery one, is now seen as a threat. We’re told that the sun’s ultraviolet rays cause wrinkles, and even worse, cancer. So should we fear the sun? Not necessarily. If you apply sunscreen, the sun is a blessing. If you skip the Coppertone, however, be prepared to suffer the consequences.
In our sermon text this morning the prophet Malachi reports that, come Judgment Day, “the sun of righteousness will rise” (Malachi 4:2). The sun of righteousness is another name for the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Malachi goes on to tell us that Christ’s return will be great for some but terrifying for others. Or to put it as the text does: the sun of righteousness will rise 1) to burn the arrogant, and 2) to warm the reverent. Let’s turn our attention to Malachi’s warning and encouragement.
Malachi lived about 430 years before Christ was born. He lived at a time when God’s people, the Israelites, were tired of seeing the “wicked” prosper while those who did “good” had nothing to show for their efforts. God sent Malachi to assure his people that, in time, he would punish the wicked. But before they rejoiced at that bit of news the people were to carefully consider whether or not they were among the wicked. In our text God described the wicked as those who were “arrogant.” Was God speaking about the Paris Hiltons of the day? Was he ranting against overpaid professional athletes? No he wasn’t. The book of Malachi starts with these words: “It is you, O priests, who show contempt for my name… When you sacrifice crippled or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the LORD Almighty…you profane [my name] by saying of the Lord’s table, ‘It is defiled,’ and of its food, ‘It is contemptible.’ 13 And you say, ‘What a burden!’” (Malachi 1:6b, 8, 12, 13a).
Ouch! Those words hit close to home. Have I, like the clergy of Haggai’s day, shown contempt for God’s awesome name? Have I dared to bring him less than my best in sermon and Bible class preparation? Have I looked upon my calling to serve you with God’s Word as a burden? With shame I have to say, “Yes, at times I have.” And therefore I am among the arrogant that God speaks about in our text.
If God’s spokesmen show contempt for his name, should it be surprising when parishioners do the same? And so God said of the people of Malachi’s day: “You flood the LORD’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer pays attention to your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. 14 You ask, “Why?” It is because the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant” (Malachi 2:13, 14). When God talks about the arrogant he’s not referring to people “out there.” He’s not speaking about those who slept in this morning and didn’t bother to come to church. He’s talking to us, his people who come to worship, who even bring offerings, but perhaps have forgotten that worship does not end with the final hymn. Worship of the true God continues outside of church in the way that we treat one another – including our spouse. If we have broken faith with our spouse through physical or even emotional adultery, we have broken faith with God and are also included in those whom God considers to be “arrogant.”
Does this sermon not apply to you because you’re not clergy nor are you married? Well God isn’t done describing the arrogant. He said: “8Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ “In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it” (Malachi 3:8-10). The arrogant are also those who withhold from the Lord their firstfruit offerings. The arrogant see their time and their cash as their own. They make excuses as to why they can’t give the way God wants us to. They may say that they’re waiting for a worthy project to contribute towards. Or they’re waiting to make that first million. But what does God say? He urges us to put him first NOW. He wants us to determine how much of our income we’re going to give back to him before we spend on ourselves and give God whatever we have left over. Giving God 10%, 15%, 30% of our income might seem like a foolish thing to do but don’t arrogantly lean on your own understanding of how finances work. Trust God’s promise that when we put him first he will bless us so abundantly that we won’t have rooms big enough to hold all his blessings!